During the Broncos 31-14 trouncing of the Seattle Seahawks yesterday, you could almost hear the entire city of Denver sighing with relief: Aaah, that's more like it! And it was -- particularly in comparison to last week's dispiriting loss to Jacksonville.
But there's a very real possibility this will be among the only bright spots in the season's first half.
First, the good news. Kyle Orton looked sharp again, and new Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas, seeing his first action, was a lot better than that, grabbing eight receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown.
Yes, Brandon Marshall is missed -- on the field, anyhow. But if Thomas keeps up this pace (and manages to stay healthy), we'll forget about BM soon enough.
And then there was that successful gadget play, whose name -- toss-238-gator-throwback -- was as close as Tim Tebow came to having an impact on Sunday's outcome. Nice contrast to the usual dinking and dunking.
The defense, too, showed signs of life, picking off three Matt Hasselbeck passes, with big names Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins both getting involved. Moreover, the D got stronger as the game went along. During the second half, in particular, the Seahawks offense wasn't N Sync, performing more like late period Backstreet Boys.
On the negative side of the equation, the running game didn't have any tangible impact, with Knowshon Moreno gaining just 51 yards on 24 carries. Coach Josh McDaniels deserves credit for continuing to call ground plays, but if the Broncos don't start building on that mediocre per-rush average, opposing teams will be able to concentrate solely on Orton -- and that would be a very bad thing.
Speaking of which: The Seahawks, who won their season opener against the San Francisco 49ers, didn't look like a very strong club yesterday -- which makes extrapolating on the Broncos' positives difficult, especially considering the next portion of their schedule. Next week, the team plays the Indianapolis Colts, followed by Tennessee, Baltimore and the New York Jets.
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Earlier this month, Bleacher Report's Lester Crafton, looking for a scenario that would have Tim Tebow starting at QB by November 14, predicted that Denver would start the season 1-5, with the only victory during the first half-dozen contests coming against -- you guessed it -- Seattle. And this definitely could happen, given the next four opponents.
The Colts looked great against the New York Giants last night and the Jets handled the vaunted New England Patriots. And while Tennessee and Baltimore fell yesterday (to the Steelers and the Bengals, respectively), both were defensively stout -- and they'll take on the Broncos in their home stadium.
Will the Broncos be able to perform as they did yesterday under such circumstances? Here's hoping so. If not, we may be looking at the Seahawks game as one of the rare bright spots in a brutal campaign.